(CNN) – Voters booted out two Democratic state lawmakers in Colorado on Tuesday in a heated recall effort that generated national headlines as a referendum on the renewed gun control debate.
Both lawmakers voted in favor of the state's unpopular new gun laws earlier this year, sparking a wave of protest that got their names on the ballot for the state's first-ever recall at the state level.
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State Senate President John Morse, who was a little more than a year shy of finishing his final term in office, conceded after he narrowly failed to win enough votes to keep his seat representing Colorado Springs. He was term-limited and would not have been able to run for re-election next year.
Read more: Colorado recall a proxy in national gun control debate
According to results from the secretary of state, 51% of voters in his district said "yes" to the recall, while 49% said "no." He'll be replaced by Republican Bernie Herpin.
Morse's colleague, state Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo, was also on the ballot and conceded late Tuesday night. She lost in a 56%-44% yes-no vote, and will be replaced by Republican George Rivera.
Giron's loss came as a bigger surprise, as her district is more Democratic than Morse's.
The new laws in Colorado, which took effect in July, limit firearm ammunition magazines to 15 rounds and require universal background checks on all firearm sales.
National groups on both sides of the gun rights debate jumped into the race, pouring money into a state level contest that normally would generate few headlines beyond Colorado's borders. But gun rights activists and gun control supporters nationwide saw the election as a chance to score an electoral victory for their respective movements.
Following the deadly movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado last July and the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut in December, the Democratic-controlled legislature and Democratic governor quickly ushered the laws into place by mid-March.
A former police chief, Morse spent the past six weeks going door to door, asking voters to help him keep his job.
"You have to take it personally to some extent," Morse told CNN in an interview before the election. "But I also understand this is way bigger than me. I need to do it for those way bigger reasons."
While campaigning, Morse argued he doesn't have any regrets in his fight for tighter gun laws. Asked why he advocated for new regulations in the face of fierce opposition, he pointed to the real catalyst of the renewed firearm debate.
"The vision of 6- and 7-year-olds in Newtown being carted out on stretchers, with their Power Rangers T-shirts now covered by a white sheet," he said. "We can't continue to bury our children."
Giron also said she was "proud" that she voted for the gun laws.
"This is not the wrong business to be fearful about doing the right thing," Giron told CNN before the election.
But in a state with rich gun culture and tradition, a majority of voters, however, disagree with the laws. According to a Quinnipiac University poll last month, voters in the state opposed the gun laws by a margin of 54%-40%. Democrats were supportive of the measures, 78%-16%, while Republicans more strongly opposed them, 89% to 7%.
More importantly for electoral purposes, a majority of independent voters opposed the laws, 56%-39%.
Tim Knight, founder of the Basic Freedom Defense Fund, the group that initiated the recall against Morse, labeled the election as a "victory" for the state and those "who have been subject to the overreach of a Democrat agenda on guns, taxes, and accountability to the people."
"Since day one, they said it couldn't be done," Knight continued. "Tonight, this is a victory for the people of Colorado, and we share this victory with them."
The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund, which helped mount the recall effort, also celebrated the results as a major milestone.
"(NRA-PVF) is proud to have stood with the men and women in Colorado who sent a clear message that their Second Amendment rights are not for sale," read a statement from the group.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, co-chair of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, argued the gun laws are still in place in Colorado, despite the lawmakers' ouster. The pro-gun control group vowed to continue supporting like-minded candidates, hoping to tamp down fears that the recall sent a message to lawmakers across the country.
"For the last 20 years, the NRA has had the field to themselves in contests like these, but no more. We're committed to backing elected officials across the country who are willing to face these attacks because they agree with Americans about the need for better background checks," Bloomberg said in the statement.
Gov. John Hickenlooper said he was "certainly disappointed" by the outcome but acknowledged voters in the two Senate districts "have spoken."
Do people really think that gun laws will stop criminals from getting their hands on weapons? No, criminals steel guns ,or even buy them illegally. Gun laws are for Honest working people who want to protect themselves. I do live in Colorado and I also live in district 11 and I'm happy Morse is gone. Please if you want to complain don't come here, and let the people of Colorado do what we see fit. Remember its our state not yours.
Some really peculiar comments coming in. Some people seem not to know that this was a truly grass-roots effort, and the real outside forces trying to buy the election were Bloomburg. The Republican Party and the NRA gave this recall NO HELP until the grass roots organizers took it all the way to the ballot.
Some people seem not to know that magazine limits have absolutely no effect on crime and homicides (the VA Tech shooter used several ban-compliant 10-round magazines).
Glad to see politicians being held responsible by their citizens. Gun Control is not an issue that I personally have a heated opinion on, but making politicians accountable for their votes is a TREMENDOUS tool for fixing other issues with our society. Now, please apply the same pressures to those who support the failed War on Drugs, Private Prisions, SuperPACs, Offshoring Jobs, Partisan Politics.... you get the idea.
To those "ashamed" by the state and country, perhaps democracy just isn't your thing.
Yea, for Colorado citizens exercising their rights.
Geees... Will they ever learn?
I miss Ronald Regan.
My heart is heavy, not only for this senseless recall but for the families that have lost loved ones to deadly firearms and are continuously subjected to ignorance. Colorado should be ashamed for backing big business before innocent Americans.
Typical... libs are crying over victory of Constitution.
The cops are right as logbook as there's guys like you that should beat up files an gun them down till that get u..pnm..
This should serve as a wake up call for these people. Good for you, I am so glad you stood up to these people.
Eileen, don't you understand, the criminals will always be able to get these guns. The only ones that will not is us the regular people who try to follow the laws that are put down for us. Use your God given common sense.
A pointless exercise. In fact, we'll see gun deaths increase in Colorado, but you won't hear it on the news. I laugh every time I hear the words "liberal media" – no such thing exists. It used to, for sure. Now, they're all in the pockets of big business. The gun manufacturers are a powerful lobby. Common sense reform will never happen. Kudos to these two for doing what they felt was right instead of what was politically expedient – and likely lucrative.
These voters sent a message that needs to be sent more often: legislators need to listen more to their own constituents and listen less to rich East Coast mayors with ineffective agendas.
Well now these GOP folks can get back to their more important work of restricting rights of women and gays.....
So glad the NRA is wrapping its tentacles around our political system and representatives. Now weapons have more rights than people. Way to go USA. Down with education and up with guns! Idiocracy is alive and well.
Colorado is back on the road to freedom and the wild west ! bloomberg needs to pray that New Yorkers don't see what Colorado people just accomplished and get the idea they don't have to be ruled by a dictator. New York should put bloomberg on a boat and send him sailing !
We should always get rid of the people that think the State can run your life better than you. Even worse they used a terrible event to help their failed agenda. There is no outlawing guns. Stupid statist drones. Hail Reagan!
Why does anyone need a 30 round clip?
Just in case the deer shoots back?
Sic semper tyrannis.
Imagine that...people rising up in defense of the Second Amendment, booting out agenda driven progressive politicos.
The white house hailed Colorado's passage of these laws as a landmark on the "way forward" (A soviet style propoganda slogan if ever there was one...): Wonder what they" have to say about this thumb to the eye of their agenda?
My guess is pretty darn little. But you can BET they're paying attention....
Of course Colorado Republicans hate the idea of making it harder for criminals and lunatics to buy guns by requiring background checks on all gun purchases.
9 out of 10 Americans are for universal background checks including 3 out of 4 NRA members.
Just another daily illustration of how rabid and insane the Republican party has become.
'yurlipsrmuvn – Typical... libs are crying over victory of Constitution.'
Typical, conservatives makes another mess and it will be up to libs to fix it (again)...
great job Colorodo!!! From one who served to protect our rights.